By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Kerry’s current proposal does, in fact, embrace a tax increase. Kerry would offset the one cut by restoring the
higher pre-Bush capital-gains tax in other categories, something he strategically omitted from his presentation. But backstage, his staff argued that compensating for a tax cut with revenue elsewhere shows how their candidate is more fiscally responsible.
Kerry’s deeper point is that there’s more to helping the economy than passing tax cuts that most directly benefit the wealthy. Kerry noted that Federal Express and Intel benefited from government-loan guarantees in their early days. And it was a small government-funded project that led to the Internet itself: “Some say we can’t afford to fund curiosity. I say how can we not afford to fund curiosity?”
He added, “I will be a president who actually believes in science.” Long applause greeted that one. “Without a moment’s hesitation, with the proper ethical guidelines, I will reinstate [a] national commitment to stem-cell research.”
Kerry and Bush both pledge to link every corner of America with high-speed Internet. Kerry compared it to FDR’s rural electrification project. One benefit of this modern broadband equivalent, said Kerry, would be allowing rural breadwinners to telecommute, preserving the sanctity and values of the small-town homestead.
Bush has said he’d have the job done by 2007. Here it was Kerry’s turn to one-up, setting the end of 2006 as his time frame.
In this, Kerry suffers from a uniquely Democratic form of one-upmanship. If Bush promises jobs, Kerry will promise more jobs. He also promises more money for schools, more comprehensive (and more expensive) health-care reform. And more money for AIDS, more resources for Homeland Security and crime fighting. Kerry frequently pays for this more, more, more with two devices: repealing the tax cuts for the wealthy and ending corporate tax loopholes.
But it’s hard to see how he keeps his promise to do better than Bush at lowering the deficit, if he’s simply redirecting the Bush tax cuts from the pockets of the well-heeled into expanded government programs.
The other solution, closing tax loopholes, remains a popular chestnut, but it resembles Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s promise to end California’s budget woes by targeting “waste, fraud and abuse.” It rarely ends up being that quick or easy.
Which creates a credibility gap for the Democrats as well as Bush when talk turns to cutting the record budget deficit that Bush has amassed.
Bush and Kerry share a particular challenge in this election: They must appeal to the masses (where the votes are) as well as those with masses of money (which is what funds campaigns). Bush inspires much of his non-rich core with homilies about values, about defending marriage and about banning abortions. Kerry’s in the trickier position of making an economic argument to prosperous and poor alike — even as the economy is looking up for some in the middle class. At the upper end, Kerry has to persuade corporate honchos to ditch an incumbent president whom they might well consider already bought and paid for. The Bush campaign retains its own list of endorsing CEOs, including Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Meg Whitman of eBay and John Chambers of Cisco.
Organized labor has no doubt which party’s side it’s on, because it’s concluded which side Bush belongs to. “In the past three and a half years, we’ve seen a more anti-worker, anti-union administration than any in the last 50 years,” said John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor federation. He’d just heard Kerry address the Service Employees International convention in San Francisco, and he’d joined in the rhythmic clapping to cheer Kerry on. As for the Bush administration, “We had our fears about how bad it would be, but it’s been worse than we anticipated. It appears that there’s a real war on workers and their families.”
SEIU announced plans for its 50,000 members — low-wage workers, including janitors and home health workers — to make 7 million phone calls, distribute 6 million fliers, work 165,000 full days and knock on 10 million doors on Kerry’s behalf.
It was a Sweeney lieutenant who called Bush an SOB in her speech to delegates. And she didn’t mean “Son of Bush.” And the union faithful were dubbed “corporate America’s worst nightmare.” The next day, in Anaheim, a union delegate gave Kerry’s hand a hearty shake while telling him to “kick Bush’s ass.”
The prose was purplish enough to make Dick Cheney blush — or to make him sharpen his own class-war spear.